Work in progress
My current project is a hybrid documentary that uses archival images from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s work in China in the 1940s as a prism for viewing the contemporary landscape of China’s Three Gorges region, which has been irrevocably transformed by the construction of Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.
My research has centered on the career of John L. Savage, Chief Designing Engineer for the Bureau from 1924–1945, and his time in China in the mid-1940s consulting with the Chinese government on what was then known as the Yangtze Gorge Project. Savage designed some of the most significant water infrastructure projects in the American West, including Hoover Dam, but he also worked extensively internationally. Although U.S. government involvement in the Yangtze Gorge Project would end with the victory of Communist forces in China’s civil war, Savage’s early planning would establish the groundwork for the monumental dam that would ultimately rise, within a very different geo-political context, on the Yangtze over fifty years later.
The images which are the focus of this project are located within the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's collections at the National Archives at Denver, but I am also working with materials from the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming.